Cognition et apprentissage chez le cheval: Introduction
Cet article est la partie 2 de 4 du dossier Cognition et apprentissage

Le 9 décembre 1904, un rapport scientifique était publié sur un cheval, appelé plus tard Clever Hans, qui trompait les foules, les experts, et les scientifiques qui le croyaient capable de résoudre non seulement des problèmes mathématiques complexes, mais également dire l’heure et avoir des connaissances musiques(Pfungst, 1911). Le cheval n’était évidemment pas conscient de la tromperie ou des medias de masse qui propageaient sa célébrité.
En réalité, Hans avait appris à lire le comportement humain, plus spécialement les mouvements involontaires faits par un questionneur (la plupart du tout un mouvement de la tête suivi par un regard rapide vers le haut du visage de Hans) qui lui signalait le nombre correct de coups de sabot avait été atteint. Le génie de Hans n’était pas lié à une aptitude mathématique ou musicale, mais à sa capacité à observer attentivement les gestes humains, et apprendre comment maximiser sa chance d’obtenir une récompense.

La recherche équine

Le cheval est un animal domestique commun principalement utilisé pour le sport, et dans une variété de « métiers ». Le cheval domestique remplit une niche unique dans la culture humaine, notamment étant donné que la grande majorité d’entre eux seront soumis à une formation tout au long de leur vie. Vu de la diversité de nos styles de vie, il n’est pas étonnant qu’il existe une grande variété de croyances sur : comment un cheval doit être travaillé, que sont-ils capable de comprendre, comment les différentes méthodes de travaillent impactent leur bien-être et leur relation avec l’humain. Il est donc surprenant que peu de recherches aient été faites sur les capacités cognitives du cheval, avec pas moins de sept fois plus de recherches sur la cognition du rat que sur celle de notre compagnon ! La littérature disponible suggère que le cheval effectue avec succès un certain type de tâches cognitives, telles que l’apprentissage discriminatif, la mémorisation, et la formation de concepts. Comme dans le cas de Clever Hans, les chevaux démontrent une sensibilité accrue aux actions et comportements d’autres individus, y compris les humains. Pourtant, beaucoup d’aspects de la cognition équine et de leur apprentissage demeurent inexplorés.

Le cheval domestique moderne vit dans des conditions qui différent fortement de celles de leur ancêtre sauvage

Le cheval domestique moderne vit dans des conditions qui différent fortement de celles de leur ancêtre sauvage

Le cheval domestique moderne vit dans des conditions qui différent fortement de celles de leur ancêtre sauvage, et sont souvent sujet à des techniques d’entrainement et de gestion à l’opposé des besoins biologiques de leur espèce. Cela inclut de lui demander d’ignorer sa tendance naturelle de fuir dans les situations qui pourraient lui faire peur (une clinique, un van…), de communiquer et coopérer avec d’autres espèces qui pourraient être considérées comme des prédateurs (les humains). Beaucoup de chevaux, notamment les chevaux de course, sont soumis à un grand nombre d’expériences de management. Cela sous-entend souvent un réentrainement et un réapprentissage tout au nom de sa vie. Les implications exactes de ce cas pour l’apprentissage, la cognition et le bien-être ne sont que peu connues. La connaissance scientifique sur le monde perceptuel du cheval et ses capacités cognitives pourraient être une aide dans la mise en place de méthodes d’entrainements, ainsi que dans le soin et le système de management, et améliorer le bien-être global de cette espèce.

Quelles pistes pour la suite ?

Comme toutes les recherches sur la cognition animale, la cognition équine peut-être abordée par des angles variés, en usant différentes méthodes. Les chevaux élevés pour différents buts (thérapie vs course) peuvent être exposés à différents facteurs au long de la vie, facteurs qui peuvent influencer leur comportement et leurs capacités cognitives. Ceci pourrait mener à quelques divergences dans la littérature et pourrait rentre difficile l’analyse de « l’espèce » en elle-même. De ce fait, il est nécessaire de mettre en place une littérature sur le comportement du cheval et sa cognition, prendre la mesures de ses a aptitudes et capacités, et mieux comprendre les interconnections entre génétique, environnement et expérience tout au long de la vie qui renseignent sur les comportements des populations et des individus. Cette revue recense l’état actuel de 3 aires de recherche sur la cognition équine, aires centrales pour ceux qui travaillent avec les chevaux de façon scientifique ou pratique : les interactions cheval/homme, l’apprentissage social et la l’apprentissage discriminatif. Les challenges à venir dans la recherche, ainsi que des considérations liées au bien-être et au management seront débattus.

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3 commentaires

  1. Laurence DARCY Auteur août 22, 2016 (4:59 )

    Merci beaucoup pour cette belle introduction qui donne envie d’en savoir davantage.

    Répondre à Laurence DARCY
  2. rousseau anne Auteur août 24, 2016 (4:25 )

    bonjour, pouvez-vous indiquer les sources des études que vous citez, même en anglais? Je suis un cursus en médiation animale, et ces références me seraient utiles pour mes travaux. Merci

    Répondre à rousseau anne
    • Alter Equus Auteur août 25, 2016 (12:56 )

      Bonjour,

      Voici l’ensemble des sources mentionnées dans ce résumé:

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